ASRM Working to Ensure Patients, Not Politicians, Are in Charge of Their Reproductive Health

On September 1, after a refusal by the United States Supreme Court to intervene, the Texas "Heartbeat Bill"—an effective statewide ban of abortion—went into effect. The law, which endangers the health and well-being of countless people by banning abortions at just six weeks and deputizing private citizens to enforce the ban, has been met with international outcry and faces ongoing Constitutional scrutiny.

ASRM, which weighed in with Texas lawmakers in strong opposition to the legislation at its introduction, is deeply disappointed in its enactment and remains fully committed to working to guarantee individuals' rights to control their reproductive health choices. To that end, ASRM is partnering with colleagues from other leading medical organizations and societies, including the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), in challenging any efforts to restrict access to abortion, a safe, proven medical procedure. This includes joining on a soon-to-be-filed amicus brief challenging Texas' six-week abortion ban on the grounds that it is fundamentally at odds with the provision of safe and essential health care, medical ethics, and well-settled constitutional law.

Importantly, we are also keeping our eyes fixed on the horizon: The Supreme Court has agreed to hear Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization in the upcoming term. This case challenges a Mississippi law, which ASRM actively opposed, that bans abortions beyond a "probable gestational age" greater than 15 weeks gestation, as measured from the first day of the patient's last menstrual period. Under the Mississippi statute, any physician who provides abortion care after 15 weeks gestation is subject to civil penalties and medical license suspension or revocation.

Court-based efforts are merely one facet of ASRM's vigilance and advocacy on these matters. This week, we learned that Speaker Pelosi will call up legislation that ASRM enthusiastically endorsed earlier this year, the Women's Health Protection Act (H.R. 3755/S. 1975), for a vote by the U.S. House of Representatives in the coming weeks. There are discussions underway as to how this legislation might serve as a vehicle for codifying the protections afforded under the landmark case of Roe v. Wade (410 US 113, 1973). ASRM is closely monitoring this process and will carefully review any such proposed measures before offering leadership recommendations for action.

ASRM is also joining an ACOG-led amicus brief in a case (Planned Parenthood of South Atlantic v. Wilson) challenging South Carolina's six-week abortion ban (legislation we submitted testimony to oppose). The SC statute, which also is referred to as a "heartbeat ban," outlaws abortions after fetal or embryonic cardiac activity can be detected. The law carries civil, criminal, and licensure penalties for physicians and clinics. We expect the outcome of this case to hinge on whatever comes of the TX statute. And there, it's apt to be an individual challenge to the new law that answers whether or not it will stand. In her dissent to the decision to let the Texas law go into effect, Justice Sonya Sotomayor stated, "Taken together, the Act is a breathtaking act of defiance – of the Constitution, of this Court's precedents, and of the rights of women seeking abortions throughout Texas."

All of this should be seen as a warning shot across the bow for those in the reproductive medicine field. The Texas and South Carolina laws, which are among dozens proposed and debated on the state level this legislative cycle alone, focus on the development of a fetus in an established pregnancy. But make no mistake: The approval of such proposals serves as an on-ramp for even greater restrictions that seek to regulate the embryo and even the in-vitro embryo. The potential implications for infertility care and our patients are enormous.

"In the face of policies that endanger patients' ability to access needed reproductive care, ASRM will continue its work to guarantee patients' rights to control their reproductive health choices and providers' ability to provide sound, medically and scientifically based care," stated Sean Tipton, Chief Advocacy, Policy and Development Officer of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

The ASRM Bulletin is published by ASRM's Office of Public Affairs to inform Society members of important recent developments. Republication or any other use of the contents of the Bulletin without permission is prohibited. To request permission to quote or excerpt material from the Bulletin, contact Sean Tipton at stipton@asrm.org.   

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